This was last week. We’d just finished eating a fine meal at our favorite neighborhood Italian restaurant. And no, I don’t like it just because there’s a waitress there who for years has been willing to (unable to not?) flirt regardless of whether the mother of my children is sitting right there at the table opposite me. Though flirting is in the eye of the beholder; I’ve often argued that she’s just veeeeery gregarious. Mostly I think she’s good at her job, and knows which member of a party to charm in which way, for maximum income. Though the beloved has begged to differ, and is convinced that the gal, while fairly evidently straight (a femme lesbian knows her sistren), harbors a thing for the dapper butch and simply can’t contain herself. Who am I to contradict her? At any rate, it helps, I’m sure, that whenever she comes up to check on us and we’re lovey-dovey or laughing, she tells us how “cute” we are. We always say: parents on date night. Hard not to have a good time.
But I digress. We’d just left the restaurant, collars turned up against the nip in the air. We were peeping in a nearby store window when I heard the unmistakeable sound of a gaggle of high-spirited teenage voices. It was around 9:30 PM. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw them coming toward us in the crosswalk of the four-lane thoroughfare.
“Are they stopping for us?” said one of them to another, clearly referring to oncoming traffic. “They’re not stopping. They’re totally not stopping for us.”
Laughter ensued, and then other remarks out of earshot. I thought to myself: God love the young people. I mused a bit to myself about how interesting it was, how you could tell the mutual affection between the friends, and the self-confidence, all from the tone of voice. Not a one picked up her pace in the crosswalk, but all arrived unscathed and full of good cheer. Ah, the uncanny sense of invincibility that only the teen years can convey.
Then I heard my beloved, who had looked up from our storefront window as they walked by.
“Is that a baby? Is that a baby? That’s a baby. She’s carrying a baby! I swear to god she is carrying a baby.”
There seemed to be no need for me to contribute to the conversation, as she was doing a fine job holding up both ends on her own.
“Really. It was a baby,” she continued. “Little pink onsie jammies. Look.”
I looked up to see just as the gals were strolling out of view. There, indeed, were two little fuzzy footsied feet bobbing off up the sidewalk. The gal holding the baby had her in something like a football hold. Kind of. Or like she was carrying a bag of groceries.
The beloved and I looked at each other with identical bemusement. A mute, Well hot darn. Here we were, olster middle-age-ish parents, absolutely certain that the only place it would be acceptable to be hoisting our kids around after dark would be from the car to inside the house, and even then only with the kids placidly asleep in our arms. It goes without saying that wherever we were with our kids, we’d also always be burdened down by backpacks brimming with kid supplies — diapers, change of clothes, water bottles, little books, art supplies, you name it. But this night-owl party animal wee bundle seemed to be doing just fine with nothing so much as a little blanket. Probably was asleep. Best yet, it didn’t seem to be putting much of a dent in anyone’s social schedule.
Those wacky straight people. Crazy.
Of course we had no idea whether any of the gals were the baby’s mother. Could be yes, could be no. Could be the gal holding the baby had charge of her sibling’s kid, or even her mom’s? No matter which it was, clearly everyone seemed totally contented. We could hear their laughter trailing after them as they headed into the night.
The beloved and I smiled at each other once more, she joined her hand to mine in my coat pocket, and we ambled back home to our kids, who were fast asleep in bed, watched over by their aunt and uncle.